Crystal Snyder is a mother of two who's working a new job with a program called Refresh Appalachia, which is helping her learn how to farm. About three thousand squash plants were grown from seed by Crystal and her co-workers in the summer of 2016. That summer she also returned to college. In this installment of The Struggle to Stay, we'll hear what it's been like to juggle work, school and taking care of her family.
They planted in mid-July, a bit late to start growing squash. Crystal’s employer, Refresh Appalachia, had just gotten word that a regional project to sell squash throughout the east coast was a go, and so they had to plant fast and hope that things worked out.
I caught up with Crystal in a muddy field one August morning last summer, while she planted seeds.
She was covered up to her knees in mud. It had been raining and the ground was sopping wet. “So it’s basically three acres of three different varieties of squash. We’ve been fighting the weather and getting the ground broke. I just think it’s beautiful. There are hills all around, beautiful trees and old barns.”
The plan for all this squash is to ship it to a group in Virginia called Appalachian Sustainable Development, a regional food hub that distributes food from Maryland to Atlanta.
Crystal dreams of one day owning her own small farm, and she says this program makes that goal feel possible.
"We’ve been learning a lot about how things work on a farm, but actually being out here with our hands in the soil, that feels good. I’m excited to see what we can produce here."
After spending four hours in the mud and rain, it’s time to shift gears and head off to Mount West Community and Technical College, where Crystal is working on her associate’s degree. She's in a five week summer class, an English and Writing course. There isn’t time for lunch today. And there isn’t time to change clothes. So she cleans up the best she can and changes out of her mud boots.
“I’m gonna go to the tutoring lab and submit an essay that was due last week. I’ve been in a five week class. So it ends next week, so I’m like under the gun to get some essays submitted.”
Crystal isn’t quite sure which assignment is due today, or if she’ll get a reprieve for turning her previous assignment in a day late. She goes into the computer lab, and begins typing. She already handwrote most of the essay at home.
She submits her music essay, and then heads to class.
After talking with her teacher and listening to the lecture on writing a persuasive essay, Crystal decides to go home and focus on writing her next assignment, which is due in a couple of days. Anxiously, she admits she hasn’t started on it yet.
“And I’m sort of feeling the pressure of procrastinating and not having internet at the house to do the research. But I’m confident that I’ll get it done.”
She did turn that paper in on time. A few days later, Crystal was up late finishing her final paper, which is about mushroom farming.
“It’s due in five hours. I’m embarrassed to say how much I have to do on this. It’s a really important subject and I want to make sure I get it right. I’ve avoided it for too long. Five weeks go by fast. I’ve got to get this done. I’ve got to get this out of the way so I can just breathe. I don’t know I need to do it I guess and stop thinking about it.”
Crystal ends up getting a C in this English Class, not what she had hoped, but she’s happy she passed the class and made it through her first semester.
But, things get stressful pretty quickly about two weeks after the semester ends.
“I’m not sleeping, and I’m having like chest pain, and just so much [expletive] pressure.”
A lot can happen in a couple of weeks. We’ll hear about it next time on The Struggle to Stay.